Telling Stories

a selection of narrative pictures

Illustrations © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society.

Click on the images for more information on the works concerned and the stories they are illustrating – and, in some cases, to see other versions of the works.

David Choosing the Three Days' Pestilence, 1931

David Choosing the Three Days' Pestilence, 1912
In the Old Testament story in 2 Samuel 24:10–15, David chooses three days' pestilence from the options that God gives him to expiate his sins.

The Resurrection

The Resurrection, 1912
According to the New Testament story in Matthew 27: 45–52, when Christ died upon the cross 'the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.’

The Return of Ulysses

The Return of Ulysses – study, c.1913
In Book 20 of Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses (or Odysseus), who has returned home incognito after ten years' wandering following the Trojan War to find his wife besieged by unruly suitors, sits to one side at a banquet in his home and plots the suitors' destruction.

Self-Classical Scene

Classical Scene, c.1920
Probably a simplified depiction of the start of Book 3 of the Odyssey, when Odysseus’ son arrives at Pylus in search of information about his father.

The Crucifixion

The Crucifixion, c.1922
Jesus is crucified between two thieves.

Money Changers

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple – study, 1925
'And Jesus . . . said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves' (Matthew 21:12–13).

Dogs of the beni Hillal

Dogs of the Beni Hillal – an Arabian Legend, 1925
'Ibn Bani . . . gasped that the dogs of the Beni Hillal, the mythical builders of the fort, quested the six towers each night for their dead masters' – T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, ch. 79

Deposition from the Cross -- study

Deposition from the Cross – study, c.1926
Joseph of Arimathaea has Jesus's body taken down from the cross.

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden, c.1926
This seems to depict a situation invented by Roberts based on the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2–3.

Susanna and the Elders

Susanna and the Elders (aka Susannah), c.1926
In the Old Testament story in Daniel 13:1–23, two elderly men spy on the beautiful Susannah while she bathes in her garden, and then try to blackmail her into having sex with them.

Antony in Egypt

Antony in Egypt, c.1929
In Act I of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, the Roman triumvir Antony is criticised for the unmanly life he is leading at Cleopatra’s court in Egypt.

The Judgement of Paris, 1933

The Judgement of Paris, 1933
In Greek mythology, the Trojan prince Paris is tasked to decide which of three goddesses should receive a golden apple inscribed 'for the fairest'.

The Temptation of St Anthony -- study

The Temptation of St Anthony – study, 1950–51
When the later St Anthony decides to devote himself to God, the Devil attempts to weaken his resolve by tempting him with the pleasures of the flesh..

The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus, 1954
According to Greek mythology, the goddess Aphrodite, or Venus, was born from the sea and came to shore on the island of Cythera.

The Rape of the Sabine Women

The Rape of the Sabine Women – study, 1955
An adaptation of a story in the legendary history of Rome in which Romans abduct the women of the neighbouring Sabine tribe to make up for their own shortage of women.

The Vengeance of Odysseus

The Vengeance of Odysseus, 1974
A scene from Book 22 of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus, helped by his son and two faithful servants, slays the suitors who have been besieging his wife during his wanderings after the Trojan War.

They Walked on the Sea

They Walked on the Sea, 1978
After his crucifixion, Jesus appears to his disciples walking on the sea and calls them to him.

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